Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Good Wal-Mart Study

A report done by the Center on Policy Initiatives in California provides us with the kind of model economic impact study we have been talking about. What’s important here is that we focus on the community impacts and the quality of a development. Sustainable development, in this context, is neither a liberal or conservative perspective but a sensible approach to maintaining the human scale of community before we become totally boxed in.

What’s particularly interesting in this study is the employment data, culled from the College Grove Wal-Mart project. What the analysts found was that of the total permanent jobs created a whopping 740 or 84% paid below a self-sufficiency wage. In addition, 46% of the workforce was not able to access employer-provided health care.

In addition, a survey of local retailers found adverse effects: “… the retail supermarket for the area continues to have one of the highest vacancy and turnover rates in the city” (pg. iii). Pointedly (and this is for all those small businesses who dream of attracting spillover trade), no new economic activity in the local market area was found because of the big box development.

Bronx Terminal Market Model

What this study points out, again underscoring our own view, is that the quality of the employment created needs to be fully vetted along with the collateral losses due to competition. In the case of the Market, this calculus needs to be viewed in the context of the public subsidies being provided. As the College Grove study accurately recommends:

Include job quality standards for publicly assisted economic development and Redevelopment Projects, and job quality goals in Redevelopment Plans to ensure that public tax dollars do not contribute to poverty by creating low wage jobs without health benefits.
This is the essence of the Accountable Development Initiative and, if the state legislature fails to act, the City Council needs to move expeditiously.